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The last tack

Race Details

  • Wind: NNW: 12g14 dropping to 7g9
  • Course: 14S-1-7-14F
Course Map

What a season!  We’ve raced PERSPECTIVE for over 900 nautical miles this year, in mostly beautiful weather (okay, the Susan Hood was cold, and we got caught in a few squalls on the lake, but aside from that, right?).

And our performance has improved significantly over previous years.  Within the club racing, we were consistently competitive within the green fleet — a fleet that is itself growing more competitive with Battlewagon and Raison d’Etre also getting stronger week by week.  And within LOSHRS, competing with bigger boats from other clubs, we were also able to hold our own.

And as a team we’ve gotten tighter, had more laughs, savoured some surprising victories, and shaken off a few disappointments.  I’m gonna miss it!

Against that backdrop, tonight’s race would probably go in the ‘disappointments’ categories:  we had worked hard to get into a competitive position (just a few boat lengths separating each boat in the fleet), but on the last leg, we tacked away a bit too early and then in our effort to hold a high line, we couldn’t generate quite enough boat speed to hold off Battlewagon and Sandpiper.  A great example of just how tight the fleet has become — any given night can go any direction!

Here’s how it went.

At the dock, expecting a windy night, I set the shrouds for the 16-20 knot range, expecting to fly the #2 genoa.  In the pre-start we saw winds in the 14+ knots range, but they weren’t sustained.  Once the gusts passed, or we sailed out of the windy slots, we saw 9-12 knots, so we opted for the #1.  This proved to be the right choice as the breeze did die down.  We were only a little bit overpowered in a few gusts on the first upwind leg.

The start was interesting:  Top Gun and Legacy were over early and had to go back.  We and Battlewagon were late (us by about 5 seconds, Battlewagon behind us by about 10 seconds).  The advantage went to Sandpiper who had a good start, and got clear air too.  Away they went!

Upwind we held our own. In fact we out-pointed Top Gun and Battlewagon to sail less distance.  But they were sailing faster.  Approaching the windward mark, our rivals (except Legacy) were ahead.  So we had work to do on the downwind leg.

First step was a beautiful jibe set that got us right on course to the next mark swiftly.  Top Gun was to windward, but we got our spinnaker flying earlier than them.  They tried to roll over us on the windy side, but opted instead to take our stern and head to leeward.  Next up was Sandpiper. We tried to overtake them on the windward side, but they began to push us up.  Just then a gust grabbed us and we had a small broach, losing a couple of boat-lengths in our recovery.  Once we regained on Sandpiper, and began to overtake on the windward side, we realized that we shouldn’t get involved in this tangle.  So before they had a chance to push us up, we shivered our spinnaker to slow down a bit, turned deep once our bow was clear, and brought the pole back to accelerate on a deeper course.  It was a magical moment and we gained separation quickly.  Meanwhile to leeward both Battlewagon and Top Gun had been enjoying better air.  We gave chace, but Sandpiper was near enough to windward to give us swirly air, and we lost a bit of ground.

With Super Dave and Four Hands both on the foredeck, we held our kite up as long as we dared to regain a few precious boatlengths.  Top Gun rounded, Battlewagon was right on their stern and we were about a boat length behind as we all hardened up to begin the beat to the finish line.  Sandpiper was right behind us.  We were in this thing!

It’s so cool to have four big boats duking it out in close quarters 2/3 of the way through the race.

But the next decision made all the difference.  Kiwi asked me “Should we tack or cover them?”  I didn’t hesitate:  “Tack, we’re in their stink”, meaning that we were in Battlewagon’s bad air, and would lose a few boat lengths.  Besides, we were behind, so we should split the course.  That would have been the right answer if the last leg was straight upwind, but it wasn’t.  It was nearly a fetch.

All our rivals realized that if they pushed a bit further before tacking, they’d be able to finish the race on their next point of sail.  They all did that, and they all beat us.

It quickly became apparent that we may need another tack to finish, unless we got a lift.  So we sailed a high and slow mode, hoping to fetch the finish line without a tack.  Our rivals all sailed a low and fast mode confident of making the finish line.  The lift never came.  Battlewagon rolled over us like we were standing still.  Sandpiper gained enough so that once we tacked, they were able to finish clear ahead.

What a race!  Tight competition throughout, and our fate sealed by one tactical decision in the home stretch.  There’s definitely a lesson in here!

So that is how our amazing 2019 campaign came to a conclusion.  We have so much to celebrate this year, but this race was a reminder to stay humble, stay hungry and keep learning…game on!!


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